Reginald Erskine Foster, more popularly known as Tip Foster, is the only man to have ever captained England at both Cricket and Football.
Born in Malvern on the 16th of April, 1878, Foster studied at Malvern College and quickly began his cricketing career alongside his 6 brothers while playing for Worcestershire Cricket Club. In fact, he and his brother Wilfred both scored two hundreds in a single match, a feat still unsurpassed in County Cricket. At Oxford, Foster scored a 171 in the Varsity match, setting a new University record. In total, Foster scored 930 runs at an average of 77.5 in the 1900 season - again still a record. He also played football, racquets and golf for the University and so it must have come as little surprise when he later graduated to become a Corinthian.
On the 8th November 1899, Foster made a perfect football debut for Corinthian by scoring in a 2-1 victory over the then English league Champions, Aston Villa in the Sheriff of London Shield match at The Crystal Palace. A forerunner to today's Community Shield, it was a superb match to watch, said to have been full of the "best examples of what Association Football should be. It was triumph of amateurism over professionalism". Foster played amidst an absolute Golden Age of Corinthian FC alongside G.O. Smith, C.B. Fry and Charles Wreford-Brown; all were quite simply the sporting icons of their age.
Tip Foster (sat second from left) with his Corinthian teammates before taking on the league champions, Aston Villa.
Foster went on to score 22 goals in 26 games for Corinthian, including a famous hat trick in an 8-4 victory over Wolverhampton Wanderers on the 28th December 1900. He made a formidable partnership with G.O. Smith, the man dubbed the greatest player of the 19th century and together they forensically took apart a Spurs team in a 3-0 win in December 1901, with the pair scoring all 3 goals between them.
Tip Foster (sat second from right), next to the England captain and his Corinthian strike partner, G.O. Smith.
Tip's form quickly drew the eye of the England selectors and he played five matches for England between 1900 and 1902, making his debut against Wales on the 26th March 1900. In his second game, against Ireland at The Dell, Southampton, he scored his first international goal in a 3-0 victory. Foster was finally awarded the captaincy against Wales in his final appearance on the 3rd of March 1902, which ended in a 0-0 draw.
Tip Foster would play very few football games after this, deciding instead to focus on his career at the stock exchange - making way for his brothers, all six of whom would play for Corinthian!
He was by no means finished with the cricket bat however, making his test debut for England in 1903 when they were in desperate need for a captain for that Winter’s 1903/1904 Ashes tour. Much like his Corinthian debut, his Test debut couldn't have been more spectacular. In Syndey's SCG, against Australia, Foster was able to score an astonishing 287, which remains the highest score by any debutant in Test cricket.
Fosters score reported in the Evening News. It remains the highest score ever recorded by an Englishman in Australia.
Tip Foster’s 287 score would also hold the record for the highest score in a test match at the SCG, until Michael Clarke scored 329 against India in January 2012. The Ashes would prove a success for England with Tip Foster able to obtain an extraordinary 30 wickets out of 101 across the won series. He was also a brilliant slip fielder.
R.E.Foster exits the SCG ground after being dismissed with his 'Satisfactory 287 innings"
Committed to his work in the Stock Exchange however, Foster was unable to play in the following three seasons due to work commitments, apart from August 1905 when he scored 246 in his first re-appearance as a test cricketer!
This assuredness, and certain brilliance, saw him become the captain of England for the test series against South Africa in 1907. Leading the side to win one match and draw the further two, Tip was also offered the captaincy of the 1907/1908 Ashes tour. Foster sadly declined however, again due to commitments in his professional life.
After the Third Test against South Africa in 1907, Foster could only spare time for two more first class matches, one in 1910 (where he scored 133 against Yorkshire) and another in 1912. Outside of working hours, however, Foster continued to play Saturday Club Cricket, and he never lost his form. In one club match in 1909, he scored 261 in just 75 minutes!
R.E. Foster, the only man to ever captain England at both Cricket & Football.
Unfortunately though, by 1913 it was clear Foster was suffering severely from diabetes. Following a trip to South Africa he died in May 1914 at the age of only 36, on the eve of the Great War. One of the world's most talented cricketers and a very fine footballer, gone but certainly not to be forgotten. His tragically short life can only be reflected upon as being one of the most exceptional and remarkable in British sporting history. And, of course, his record of captaining the nation at both cricket and football will now never be broken.